NC sees rise in visitor spending in 2015-16

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Pig Jig attendees sample a wide variety of barbecue options at the Got to Be NC Festival at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds on Saturday

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced Thursday that visitor spending has increased in 91 counties in North Carolina. According to the release, visitors spent a record $21.9 billion for the 2015-16 fiscal year, an increase of about 3 percent from the previous year. “Nothing compares with our state’s diverse natural beauty and rewarding experiences at every turn,” said Department of Commerce Secretary John Skvarla III. “We can take pride in North Carolina’s position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with nearly 55 million visitors last year.”With this increase in tourism comes an increase in jobs in the hospitality sector, according to North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association President and CEO Lynn Minges. “The increase in visitation and spending also helped support jobs for our state’s citizens as well, with employment growth of 3.5 percent in the hospitality sector last year,” Minges said. McCrory said the rise in tourism is a boost for North Carolina. “Tourism is a major force in North Carolina’s economic development,” McCrory said. “The industry is fueling a continued growth in jobs and contributing substantial sums to the state budget and local economies in every corner of our great state.”The release said visitor spending attributed to supporting 211,487 jobs and generated about $5.3 billion in payroll income in the state. Minges said restaurants and lodging in the state saw a direct impact from this rise. “Restaurants and lodging establishments across the state benefitted greatly from this increase in visitor spending as 53 percent (or $11.7 billion) of the $21.9 billion in spending by visitors last year occurred in restaurant and lodging establishments,” Minges said. “In 2015, lodging expenditures in N.C. grew by 8.1 percent and food service spending by visitors grew 6.2 percent.”Visit North Carolina and the U.S. Travel Association compiled the annual study.